Friday, June 26, 2009

What We Get With Cap and Trade

Andrew Sullivan presents a telling graph about the effect of the Waxman-Markey bill on the US GDP: hardly anything in the long run. And that's assuming a cost of $1100/family/yr, which it way too high[*see below]. And It also completely ignores the cost of global climate change.

But then he writes:
This does put things in perspective, but what are we getting for that 1% decrease? By Manzi's estimate: "If the law works precisely as intended, in about one hundred years we should expect surface temperatures to be a about one-tenth of one degree Celsius lower than they otherwise would be." Small benefit; trivial cost. And that's the problem.
Actually, we get much, much more with this bill. The largest benefit is that it signals to the world we (the US) are finally starting to do something (however modest) to address climate change, and so they are now expected to do it too -- China (especially), Japan, the EU (who are already doing something, though not enough), and future US Congresses. And then together, each of us doing our part, we can solve this problem.

That's the benefit. It gives us leverage. It creates a coattail for others to grab on to. It puts our peg in the ground, allowing us to say, "match that," and to future Congresses, "surpass that."

This parsing out of individual climate actions -- the "this action will only lower temperatures by 0.000007°C" type of thing skeptics are fond of -- is extremely silly, because it completely mischaracterizes the problem, which is, of course, a global one.

There's also some hypocrisy involved, as these numbers come from climate models and their calculations of climate sensitivity. Of course, skeptics deny the accuracy of such models -- except, it seems, when it gives them the result they can use.

[*] According to the CBO, the cost of this bill is $175/household/yr, far less than what Manzi reports. It would cost low-income households nothing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your detailed comment.

I addressed the CBO cost estimate here in some detail:

I addressed the argument that this law would give us international leverage here:

BTW, great name for the blog.

Jim Manzi